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An outsider brings railway success to Xinjiang

By Cui Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-12 07:22

In 2014, when Jia Xiaobo first told officials in Urumqi his idea of making the city a railway hub that would collect cargo from around China and ship it by train to Europe, they turned him down. Officials didn't believe the city - the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region - was up to such an ambitious concept.

Jia relocated from Beijing to Urumqi in 2011 as one of the officials sent from 19 provinces and municipalities - along with others from various ministries-by the central government to help the region develop. They were expected to take on roles in local governments and advise local officials.

Since the central government first sent the officials to Xinjiang in 1997, more than 19,000 people have taken up the supporting assignments in the region. In 2011, a new round of assistance was launched, and 15,000 officials have contributed to the development of the vast western area since then.

Jia's job also changed. He was an official of the General Administration of Customs and became deputy director of the Xinjiang regional port management office.

"It is my responsibility to bring new ideas to Xinjiang and make the impossible happen," the 44-year-old said. "I am also here to help local officials better understand national policies and put them to good use in Xinjiang's development."

In China, rules require a freight train heading to Europe to have 43 rail cars before it can leave a Chinese city. In the past, that created uncertainties in departure times because it takes a long time for a city to gather enough cargo to fill all the cars.

Since all freight trains from China to Central Asia and Europe must exit from Xinjiang - which has 19 land ports along its border with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan - Jia proposed making Urumqi a rail cargo hub so that train services could be regularized.

After detailed research, he concluded that it would be much easier and quicker to reach the required number of rail cars at a single center because cargo would come from all over China.

He eventually convinced local officials and, after repeated attempts, received policy support from the General Administration of Customs. His proposal was finally given a green light by the Urumqi government.

In August, the temporary Urumqi railway port and gathering center was up and running. The China-Europe freight train departing from Urumqi has become a popular choice for international businesses - a point of pride for Jia.

When his required service time of three years in Xinjiang was up in 2014, Jia decided to stay another three so he could follow through on projects he believes are crucial to the region's development.

Jia is due back in Beijing soon, and he has been busy completing documents to renew the Urumqi railway port's license, which expires in August.

"There are still many misunderstandings about the region and its people," Jia said. "I will continue telling people what Xinjiang is really like, especially how big it is and what great potential it has."

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